I don’t know anything about Rep. Steve Stockman, a Republican representing Texas’ 36th District, but I do know comedy when I see it.
In other news, at what point will Republicans exhaust themselves in their endless attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Is it never? If it’s never, just tell me so I can stop paying attention.
From my friends at the Short Form Blog:
Today, President Obama announced sweeping set of policies, including 23 executive orders, aimed at reducing gun violence. The unveiling was the result of the Joe Biden-led task force Obama formed last month in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, and proposed policies include an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, and improved access to mental health care. The Washington Post calls it “the most expansive gun-control policies in a generation,” and the fact that the president issued no less than 23 executive orders suggests that he wants to avoid congress as much as possible with this (which, given his first term, is understandable). Here’s the flashy White House document outlining the proposals, here’s a list of the executive orders (one of which, somewhat amusingly, is “Nominate an ATF director”), and here’s audio of the event (courtesy of Matt Keys). Photo credit: AP source
I’m anxious to hear what all of my recreation-loving and personal-protection gun-owner friends have to say. I already know — and am not really interested to hear — what the wingnut anti-tyranny group thinks.
For my part, I’m pretty pleased that someone finally said, “Enough with this nonsense.”
When I was having a little discussion on Facebook about the fine that Hobby Lobby will soon incur because its owners don’t understand that a) businesses aren’t religious organizations and b) emergency contraception doesn’t cause abortions, I managed to incur the wrath of liberty-loving Colorado State Senator Tim Neville, who compared the Affordable Care Act with the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 … since mandating that employers provide access to health insurance and mandating the return of slaves to their owners are pretty much identical.
Not only is the Affordable Care Act tantamount to slavery, he notes, it’s also socialism … which leads inexorably to slavery.
According to Neville, one should never have to pay a tax to operate a business nor should one ever have to violate the tenets of his religious faith … even, it seems, if those tenets are entirely made up by the individual or violate the rights of others.
Neville concluded his lesson in liberty by arguing that a far better option than the health care that’s subsidized by my employer would be for me “to visit ehealthinsurance.com and choose a high deductible insurance plan with a health savings account, allowing opportunities to lower your cost of insurance by choosing a policy that covers what you need.”
So … the best way to increase liberty for everyone is for me to pay more for my health care needs. Because let’s not fool ourselves, that’s what “a high deductible insurance plan” means: When I go to the doctor for a well visit, I pay that high deductible. When my child has a persistent cough and then later an ear infection and then later needs vaccinations or to see a specialist, I pay that high deductible and then I pay it again and then I pay it again. When my wife needs surgery, I pay that high deductible.
And I’d better plan at the beginning of the year for any and every health care needs that we might have all year long. Because if I plan wrong, we might end up bankrupt. Or maybe we’ll only have to decide not to vaccinate our kids since it’s prohibitively expensive.
In Neville’s world, this makes sense … either because he has a lot of money or because he’s not worried about having a bunch of health care needs this year. Or both!
This is liberty and anything else is slavery, as far as Neville is concerned. No one should ever have to do anything he doesn’t want to do … except pay a high deductible for every single health issue that arises. This is, apparently, the only way that Hobby Lobby can maintain its corporate religious freedom: By not paying fines for freely choosing to deny coverage of certain reproductive health care options to female employees … because those women shouldn’t be making those reproductive health choices in the first place (since Neville and others like him believe they are “morally problematic).
Incidentally, here’s a little news item about the way that Neville got appointed to his state senate seat:
A Republican vacancy committee on Thursday night denied veteran state Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, a promotion to the upper chamber by the narrowest of margins and instead chose activist Tim Neville to take over for retiring Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp. But the proceedings turned sour after the 60-58 vote was confirmed in a supervised recount as Kerr supporters charged that a handful of Republicans who should have voted hadn’t been notified of the meeting.
Liberty! Freedom! Having things handed to you on a silver platter! Corporations are people!
If you read any of the news about Hobby Lobby and its fight against (some forms of) contraception, you won’t be able to avoid being stunned by the complete and utter nonsense of the claims that are being made by the company’s owners.
They don’t object to including contraception in their health plan, but they object to including the morning-after pill (which is generally understood to be emergency contraception but which they have decided for themselves is actually an abortion-inducing drug):
“All they’re asking for is a narrow exemption from the law that says they don’t have to provide drugs they believe cause abortions,” Hobby Lobby attorney Kyle Duncan, a general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told CNN affiliate KFOR in November. “Our basic point is the government can’t put a corporation in the position of choosing between its faith and following the law.”
The Supreme Court has rejected their request for an injunction while their lawsuit is pending, as they’re seeking a religious exemption but are not a religious organization. And so they say they’re prepared to pay fines of more than a million dollars a day after January 1 as they await the results of their lawsuit.
Here’s a handy chart with the stark differences between an emergency contraception pill and an abortion-inducing pill.
The bottom line is this: If you own a company and don’t understand how women’s bodies work, you might end up having to pay a million dollars a day to remain faithful to your understanding of what contraception means.
This arrived in my inbox yesterday morning, without my having done anything … apart, I suppose, from having ordered pizza from Papa John’s in the past.
Apparently the financial difficulties brought on by the Affordable Care Act — which he claimed would surely result in raising the price of each pizza by something on the order of fourteen cents — are not so great that they preclude sending out coupons good for two million free pizzas.
Snarking about it on Facebook occasioned a lively discussion, with the Comment of the Day coming from Tumblr’s own Jeff Miller:
Maybe he was going to originally give you a coupon for a free pizza and fourteen cents, but now he can only give away free pizzas and no cents.
It’s impossible for me to identify with anyone who is undecided in the middle of October, who went into the debate without a clear idea of his/her preferred candidate, or who watched last night’s debate and still came away undecided. But that’s precisely what happened; as Nate Silver points out:
A CBS News/Knowledge networks poll of undecided voters who watched the debate found 37 percent giving an advantage to Mr. Obama, 30 percent favoring Mitt Romney and 33 percent calling the debate a tie.
When I watched the debate, I came away with the distinct impression that Mitt Romney has one platform plank: President Obama didn’t do enough to fix America’s economic woes. His solution, however, is utterly nonsensical. It involves lowering tax rates, extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, more military spending, no additional taxes on the middle class … and somehow a balanced budget. Whenever Romney is pressed on this issue and told that the math won’t work, he simply replies that it will work. This is like listening to someone who believes in unicorns or a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis.
That said, if you are someone who agrees with Romney’s simple assertion, then you have made up your mind. If you’re someone who agrees with Obama that Romney’s plan is just a series of impossible platitudes and that economic recovery isn’t something that just magically happens when a president waves a magic wand, then you have made up your mind. If you’d like to hear more from Romney about how his plan will work, however, you should know that you’ll be waiting forever.
Economic recovery is a slow and painful process, especially in a democratic system characterized by checks and balances and two belligerent political parties who are actively trying to make it more difficult for one or the other to get anything done; if you want it to go faster, perhaps what you want is an authoritarian governmental system.
Now, if the economy isn’t the only issue on your mind this Fall, then the choice seems just as stark.
On the question of entitlements, you either believe Romney when he says that his 47% remark doesn’t represent what he really thinks or you believe Romney when he says that 47% of the country won’t ever vote for him because they’re lazy “takers.” On the question of guns, you either agree with Romney when he says that single-parent families are largely responsible for gun violence or you believe that we might have a broader problem with guns in our society that requires a reexamination of the notion that easy access to guns makes us free and safe. On the question of women’s rights, you either agree with Obama when he says that women ought to have more control over their health and reproductive choices than the government or you agree with Romney when he says that restricting women’s choices is one of the only things the government ought to do. And then there’s the nonsense about helping women in the workplace that Romney trotted out last night in order to demonstrate … that it takes a good man to search and search and search until he finds some women to hire (who will then need to be allowed to leave work early so they can cook dinner for their families).
Anyhow, this list goes on and on and on. I won’t even mention trade with China and war with Iran.
On these issues, the differences between these candidates couldn’t be more stark. It is almost certainly the case that being undecided at this point actually means that you haven’t thought out how you feel about these issues. So, instead of worrying about who looked more presidential, whose interruptions were more impolite, or whose disagreements with the moderator about time-keeping were more annoying, perhaps you can spend some time thinking about your beliefs on equal pay, the idea that some people are “makers” and others are “takers,” women’s reproductive health, a possible war with Iran, vouchers for services upon which seniors depend, and magical tax cuts that solve all of our economic troubles.
Doing that will probably help you if you’re undecided.
[Image: Brian Snyder/Reuters] [Source]
At Friday’s news conference, Heineman said “there’s going to be 50 different state solutions” on Medicaid and he fears accepting the expansion in Nebraska would mean higher taxes and cuts to education funding.
He then pivoted to argue in favor of the importance of states focusing on preventive care, punctuating the point by reaching into his back pocket and holding up a pedometer.
I think Nebraska State Senator Heath Mello summed up the logic nicely:
By the way, here’s Heineman — back in the heady days of 2009’s budget crisis — cutting funding for education while spending freely on a death penalty system that doesn’t work at all.
So … that’s less money for education and a bunch of money spent on not actually executing anyone. But Heineman wants us to believe that he’s very concerned about cuts to education funding in Nebraska because of the Medicaid expansion.
My friend Jeff Miller has written an interesting response to my post about taxation and the individual mandate.
The crux of his argument is that I’m wrong when I agree with Chief Justice Roberts that the individual mandate’s tax/penalty is well within the federal government’s taxing authority:
Justice Roberts’ decision has, in fact, expanded the taxing power of the United States, and it does so in a way that ought to us feel uncomfortable. Even if you agree with the decision, it is not accurate to characterize this decision as ordinary.
My sense is that we’re probably at loggerheads here.
I think that the majority opinion is convincing in its interpretation of the Constitution. Miller disagrees. I’m eventually going to swtich from the example of the child tax credit that I used in my original post to illustrate why I think Roberts’ decision works but for now we’ll stick with the example of having children.
Here’s how I summed it up in my first blog post on the topic:
I have a child; I get a credit and thus pay less. You choose not to have a child; you don’t get a credit and thus pay more. Your inactivity results in a higher tax burden. Just like the inactivity with regard to purchasing health care.
For Miller, I’m mixing things up:
For Ari, the following two laws are the same:
1. You are required by law to have children, and will be subject to a financial penalty if you fail to do so.
2. You may take a credit against the income taxes you owe if you have children.
There is a very real difference in these laws, of course. Under one of them, failure to have children is a credit against taxes owed based upon one’s income. Under the other, you have to pay a penalty for failing to have children regardless of your income.
The first law is the new sort that Roberts’ decision has created, according to Miller, whereas the second law is the one that has existed for some time. This is the one that Roberts thinks corresponds to the mandate’s tax/penalty.
Having now read the decision a second time, I remain convinced that Roberts understands what he’s doing in the ACA opinion. Under Roberts’ understanding of the taxing power, the first law could be found constitutional. If Congress really wants to encourage having children, legislators could pass a law that assigns a tax/penalty for those who voluntarily elect not to have a child. A law like this would be massively unpopular, and I think it’s likely that all of the Justices would oppose it.
But whether or not absolutely everyone opposes it doesn’t actually speak to its constitutionality. And this is precisely what Roberts writes in his opinion: “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
Health Care: Tax vs. Penalty
From Ezra Klein:
Here, via the Kaiser Family Foundation, is how the individual mandate works if we call it a tax: “Those without coverage pay a tax penalty of the greater of $695 per year up to a maximum of three times that amount ($2,085) per family or 2.5% of household income…Exemptions will be granted for financial hardship, religious objections, American Indians, those without coverage for less than three months, undocumented immigrants, incarcerated individuals, those for whom the lowest cost plan option exceeds 8% of an individual’s income, and those with incomes below the tax filing threshold.”
And here is how the individual mandate works if we call it a penalty: “Those without coverage pay a tax penalty of the greater of $695 per year up to a maximum of three times that amount ($2,085) per family or 2.5% of household income…Exemptions will be granted for financial hardship, religious objections, American Indians, those without coverage for less than three months, undocumented immigrants, incarcerated individuals, those for whom the lowest cost plan option exceeds 8% of an individual’s income, and those with incomes below the tax filing threshold.”
As you might have noticed, there’s no difference between the description of the mandate in those two paragraphs. That’s not because I’ve made some disastrous copy-and-paste error. It’s because the individual mandate works the exact same way whether you call it a tax or a penalty.
Politically, it isn’t going to matter if you call it a tax or a penalty because the populace doesn’t like either one of those things. Of course, politicians don’t like to use the word “tax” when they’re trying to get elected … but there’s nothing inherently problematic about a goverment taxing the citizenry, penalizing them for behavior the government wants to curtail, or rewarding them for behavior the government wants to encourage.
Mother Jones brings us the following:
Health care #fails, continued: WHAT HATH FOX NEWS WROUGHT?!
The video above shows Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, one of the leaders of the GOP lawsuit against Obamacare, bringing a clemency meeting (no, really) to a halt to show tea party Gov. Rick Scott the good news: The Supreme Court overturned the individual mandate!
The governor quickly calls a recess, starts celebrating, and runs out to find a TV. Hilarity ensues at 1:08, when a Republican staffer apparently realizes that Bondi’s news source — Fox, perhaps? CNN? — had goofed, and SCOTUS upheld the whole law. Awkward!
(video by Bloomberg’s Michael Bender via Political Buzz blog)
So, to recap, they took a break from a long morning of hearing clemency cases — I’m still looking online to see whether clemency was granted to anyone, but I’ll hazard a guess that it was not — to celebrate their victory in the fight to keep millions of people uninsured. At least they had the good sense to leave the room.
Of course, that just makes me wish we had video of Governor Scott’s reaction upon learning he got bad information. We’ll have to settle for the reaction of the staffer, who slams his hands down on the table in a sort of mini-tantrum.